Leak Mead – on your left, when you drive from Las Vegas across the Hoover Dam – is the largest reservoir in the country when at capacity. It’s fed by the Colorado River which provides water for agriculture, industry, and 40 million people in Nevada, Arizona, California, and Mexico, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. Now after 15 years of drought, the “lake” – a mud puddle surrounded by a huge chalky bathtub ring – is threatening to run dry.
It’s considered “operationally full” when the water level is at 1,229 feet elevation above sea level. On May 2, the water level was down to 1,078.9 feet above sea level, the lowest since it was being filled in May 1937. It’s down 15 feet from the same day a year ago. Over the last 36 months, the water level has dropped 44.8 feet. It’s down 150 feet from capacity.
If the water level is below 1,075 feet elevation – 4 feet below today’s level – by January 1, 2016, it will trigger a federal water emergency. And water rationing. Las Vegas Review Journal reported that forecasters expect the level to drop to 1073 feet by June, before Lake Powell would begin to release more water. Assuming “average or better snow accumulations in the mountains that feed the Colorado River –